I made this little picture (which is click-able for full view) after I swear I saw the devil right in front of me. One of the scariest moments we’ll ever encounter as teachers is when we see the devil in the eyes of the people who are supposed to help our children. We can tell when we see them when they’re doing things to our kids that are not only irrational but immoral, when they walk the tightrope on the rules so it works to their favor, and when they smile, proud of the job they’ve done with themselves.
The first time I saw a bit of the devil was in middle school, when I had a disagreement with my language arts teacher. At first, it was no big deal; we were arguing over what constituted a predicate, something that confused me a little bit at my young age. That wasn’t too bad. Then he started getting on me for the use of the phrase “What happened?” my response to something I didn’t quite hear. He wanted me to say, “Excuse me?” After using the former a good 10 times in his class, he made me write that phrase over 1000 times during the course of the school year. It was so absurd that I continued to use it, and the fact that he wouldn’t call my mom to rectify the situation made me believe he was the devil; his ears might have burned in my Catholic household. (Jokes, jokes …)
The second time I saw the devil was in my junior year of high school; the man’s prestigious record included decades of service to my school. A father of the cloth, how could someone with such a rapport be anything but G_dly? One fateful morning, we had a read-aloud in preparation for the SATs. He called on me to answer, and I did … only he didn’t hear me. I said it loudly enough that a teacher across the way closed his door. Yet the teacher continued to pretend to not hear me. He called on the boy next to me and the boy gave him the same answer. The teacher said, “That’s correct.” Shaking my head in disgust and waving off the cackles from the student population / peanut gallery, I thought I’d never see the devil within the confines of that edifice.
The third time … well I can’t talk about the third time. All I know is that the devil has no color. The spirit wears many cloths and sometimes all at once. It wasn’t a race issue because I’ve found the devil amongst my own “people.” It’s not a monetary issue because it can be people who don’t live for money. It’s amorphous.
In the teaching profession though, evil usually rears its ugly head in the spaces where the heartless once held their arteries. People often think of negative things happening in a far-off land in some book designed for the Read-180 program or in one of the 25 books these kids need to read to get a “grand prize.” No. It’s ever present, and when teachers and administrators don’t genuinely care about the children they have powers over, the faint scent of sulfur and charcoal don’t follow too far behind. There’s a difference between a teacher who doesn’t care about the profession, just collecting paychecks, and a teacher who makes it his / her personal business to mistreat his students. The first is more readily professionally developed; the second is often a dark minion to a more evil cause.
I’ll file this under creative writing, but be warned. Maybe using Santeria to cast good spirits in your school isn’t a bad idea. I’ve looked into the eyes of the devil, and the devil still treads his feet in our system.
p.s. – Thanks to Education Matters US for including me in the latest edition of the Carnival of Education.